Cute, cuddly, and sometimes really difficult to photograph!
So...let's talk about ways to have a good experience photographing children.
#1 Capture the candid.
Don't always put pressure on them to pose and look at the camera.
Most of my favorite pictures are when I'm catching my kids in their element.
In fact, most of my pictures, period, are candid shots.
I try to absorb the feeling of the moment and what's going on. After all, years from now I want to remember more about them than what their smile looked like.
If I'm taking pictures of my child at say...a school event, I'll take candid shots the whole time. Then at the end, I'll ask for one or two posed pictures. Because I don't ask all the time, my kids are usually :) willing to oblige; and with all those candid shots I end up with a better representation of the event and the memory.
#2 Details, details, details.
Capture their favorite shoes, their stuffed lovie, their favorite food, favorite book...
...how small their hands are...
The detail shots are great for rounding out the memories you are trying to capture.
#3 How to get them to look at the camera.
Of course posed pictures are still necessary. So this skill is important.
I often say "show me your eyes."
When I say, "look at the camera" they often quickly look up and then look away.
"Look at the camera" isn't descriptive enough for my kids. "Show me your eyes" helps them understand that I want to see their eyes for longer than a split second. For your kids, another phrase might be more suitable. Don't be afraid to try out a bunch of different phrases to find the one that works best.
I also have yet to try those little scrunchie monsters found all over pinterest. You know...the ones that you put around your lens? I bet they are very helpful in getting kids to look at the camera.
#4 Keep it cool.
Kids can be stubborn and unpredictable, which means that photographing them can be frustrating sometimes. But trust me when I say, that getting agitated with your kids while photographing them will often make it worse. I know...I've been there. They can become even more obstinate and uncooperative; and you're likely to not feel creatively inspired any more either.
So...to help keep things even keel and to help my kids cooperate I try to do the following:
* Be very specific. Sometimes kids really want to do what you ask, but they don't always understand exactly what you're asking. What seems obvious to us, might not to them. When you ask them to stand next to a brick wall and smile, you might want to model the behavior first so they can mimic it.
*Encourage them. When they do what you ask (even just part of it) compliment them. Cheer them on. If they still need help doing things a little differently, compliment first and then ask them to adjust.
"Oh perfect. Love that smile. Now try smiling and showing me your eyes. Good, good. A little higher. Look at the top of my eyebrows. (wiggle, wiggle) They're dancing for you." Click...I bet your kid will smile.
* Tell a story or ask a question. A story or a question is a great way to help your kids focus on you and your camera. If it's a funny one you can also get a genuine smile out of them.
* Make sure your camera settings, and anything else you need to prepare, is ready before you start asking for a smile. Try to take as little of their time as possible. Kids' patience can wear thin, fast.
* Stop, listen, watch. This goes back to my point about catching candid moments. Refrain from prompting them at all. Don't say anything and just find the beauty in what they are already doing.
* And sometimes I have to bribe or just give up.
I realize I can't always be so flexible and candid (or patient). When all I want is a picture of them looking up, hopefully smiling, and sitting in front of say...the Christmas tree, I do admit to resorting to bribery. Candy, a movie, extra computer time, all the usual suspects should do it. There's a caveat though. It doesn't always work and you can't expect it to. It's my last ditch effort. If bribery doesn't work, then I stop. I put away the camera and try again later.
If I've incorporated a treat (my bribe in advance) as a part of the photo shoot, I have better success with this (somewhat shameful :) ) method. After all, sometimes I would rather have them holding a sucker and posing with say...grandma or (I admit it) for my blog :), than not at all.
But really...something I need to remember myself as well, is that ultimately I'm trying to capture memories not force them.
#5 How to get them to smile.
Don't you hate those forced smiles? Okay...I actually don't all the time. I want to remember what their fake smile looked like years later. It's funny. :) But I also don't want that fake smile in every. single. picture.
Try, as I mentioned before, asking them a question. Have a favorites interview. "What's your favorite color?" ...food, sport, toy...etc. Get them talking about their favorite stuff and start snapping a way when those inevitable smiles make their appearance.
For younger children you can also have them sing, make sound effects, or growl. This will either make them smile or laugh or at least give you fun facial expressions. When my oldest was I think 2-ish, I took him to a JCPenny studio for some portraits. The genius photographer snapped some amazing photos by getting him to growl at her. I thought he would look angry in the pictures because he was pretending to be a monster, but she would capture the smiles he gave in the seconds in between each growl. He was having a great time, I was getting some good pictures. It was win win.
I've tried this myself with some success. It won't work for every kid or for every day. Sometimes their growling will just look angry. :) But it's worth a try.
You can also ask them to act out different emotions. "Act surprised!"
You will either get some good smiles from this or it will help loosen them up so they will be more willing to smile genuinely for you.
Or, of course have them say a funny phrase in place of "Cheese!" You can make up weird, random phrases every time. Keep it unpredictable and fun!
#6 A few more tips...
* Get a large SD card. That way you can snap away and take a million pictures. It gives you the freedom to sift through all those pictures later and pick out the best ones.
* To get babies to smile, play peek-a-boo using your camera as the cover up for your face in between boos.
* Make it fun.
Ask them to jump, to dance, to tell a joke.
* And last, but probably most important:
Focus on the eyes. Frame your portrait/close up pictures around the eyes. This applies to all people and even pets.
The eyes often hold the key to a great picture.
What about you? Do you have some great tips that have worked with your kids?
I would love to hear them. Please comment and share!
Thank you for reading!